used without permission, for "fair use" only
Tom and Jerry
by Fatmir ALISPAHIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, July 3, 2000
Changes of rules and regulations of the OSCE Temporary Electoral Commission, adopted on May 30, 2000, that will apply to the elections held this autumn in Bosnia-Hercegovina, contain several items that violate the Bosnian Constitution and democratic principles, which can have negative consequences for the future of Bosnia-Hercegovina (BH). Since 1998, the OSCE has not had a valid mandate to organize elections in BH. Its previous mandate was specified in the Dayton Agreement, but it expired in 1998. Because of the unconstitutional character of several proposed solutions, the Parliament of BH rejected the proposal of the permanent election law. Instead of adjusting the proposal to the Constitution, the OSCE without any consultations with political parties declared that it would organize elections based on the modified rules which included some of the solutions from the rejected permanent election law. There is a publicly stated doubt that the OSCE administration in BH does not favor the stabilization of political environment and adoption of a permanent election law, since in that case the OSCE would loose profits made form the democratization of BH. If the permanent elections law were adopted, the forthcoming general elections would be organized and run by the Bosnian authorities; this way the elections will be organized and run by the OSCE, which will get for that job about DM 16 million and extend its mandate until year 2004. In this state, whose institutions remind one of Swiss cheese from the cartoons about Tom and Jerry, that is not to be underestimated. The public would swallow anything as long as the wheel of time spins towards prosperity. Our love towards our educators is not questionable as long as we do not start doubting the trustworthiness of the democratic education. Where is the ship guided by the OSCE traveling? The reaction to the division of BH to electoral districts was brief, although it denies the citizens the right guaranteed by the Constitution to elect and be elected on the whole territory of an entity. Representatives of the SDP believe that "the division to electoral units effectively increases the number of votes that have to be won by any political party in order to win representation in the Parliament, and thereby constricts political pluralism," and that that will "crucially influence strengthening of the national expression and voting preferences of the citizens, having in mind ethnic principles used in the drawing of the borders of electoral districts by the ISCE." No political party supported these changes. The OSCE claims that "the Bosnian Constitution does not anywhere mention electoral districts, so that it is not justified to claim that they should be banned"; however, that issue is defined by article IV.A.1.3.1 which states that "representatives of the lower house of the Parliament are elected by a secret vote, on the territory of the whole Federation". Even if the OSCE were right, one has to question the motives for insisting on electoral units with several candidates whose concept obviously goes in the direction of solidifying the existing ethnic and nationalist concept in BH. The stated excerpt from the Constitution indicates that the overnight introduced concept of "open lists" is also suspicious. The Constitution in several places defines that seats are distributed according to the votes won by a party and allocated to the candidates according to their order on the list of candidates of a particular political party. The OSCE's extension of the mandate of the municipal councilors to four years and shortening of the term of office of the representatives in the entity and Bosnian parliaments to two years is another violation of the Constitution. The changed electoral rules are very specific: "A cantonal parliament can have between 20 and 25 representatives." On the other hand the Constitution is no less specific and says that a cantonal parliament "cannot have less than 30 nor more than 50 representatives." Robert Barry, the OSCE mission chief in BH, gave an ultimatum: "If your parliament does not take appropriate steps, the Temporary Electoral Commission will be forced to do that on your behalf." The character of this pressure is indicated by a somersault of the representatives in the parliament of the Tuzla Canton. The representatives initially rejected an amendment that would reduce the number of representatives but only two days later, after "consultations", changed their decision although the Constitution defines that that type of decision cannot be placed back on the agenda for six months. Just like in the case of electoral units with several candidates, in this case the threshold of votes needed for representation in the cantonal parliament will be increased by this modification, and that will severely reflect on those parties that are not favored in the elections. Those parties that used to significantly contribute to the establishment of a democratic atmosphere will have the hardest time to fulfill the obligation of paying a non-refundable deposit for participation in the elections of KM 10,000 for the Bosnian and 5,000 KM for the entity parliaments. Uncountable international documents as well as our Constitution guarantee the right of every citizen to "vote and be elected". This right has been limited. It is undeniable that many political parties will give up because of a risk, even if they could invest the requested sum. In the end all parties are obliged to sign a form that they will respect and obey the Rules of the Temporary Electoral Commission. In that case, what is the purpose of the oath given by the representatives that they will "respect the Constitution and protect human rights and freedoms"? Candidates are forced to violate the Constitution, but that is the price for participation in the elections. Judging by the servility that follows OSCE's demands, political parties care more about crumbs of power than about the constitutional order in BH. To be against the Big Brother, is to be against oneself. Have you heard that before?
Translated on September 11, 2000